Ditch the Dumpster seeks help culling move-out items
Volunteers still sought to work four strategic collection stations instead of one central location as in past years; Campus Store taking used, working electronics; 'soft items' like toiletries, clothing, sheets also acceptable for repurposing
In an expanded environmental effort from previous years to save tons of goods from the landfill as students move out of their Saint Michael’s College residences this year, a group called The Ditch the Dumpster Committee is setting up four centralized drop-off locations every day of finals and on graduation day between May 7 and May 13.
The group’s leaders still are seeking volunteers for those locations. Sign up to volunteer at this link. This year, the committee is placing boxes with labels at more locations than previous years: the drop-off sites will on the Ryan/Alumni Halls green, in the Lyons/Joyce green, between Cashman-Pontigny in the newer residences, and another for the Canterbury/Cronogue Hall (Residence 4) area. Volunteers plan to be at the stations between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day, and until 8 p.m. on Thursday May 13.
This wider initiative, based on helpful if less extensive campaigns of years past, is happening one year later than originally intended because of the pandemic, according to Sarah Klionsky, counselor from Bergeron Wellness Center and this year’s chair of Ditch the Dumpster within the campus Sustainability Committee. “For seniors, on graduation day the four locations are the 100s, 200s, 300s and 400s,” Klionsky said, adding that each location can be easily identified by the donation tent and eight gigantic bins that will help volunteers divide the donations in categories to streamline the process.
Klionsky got involved as a volunteer to help mitigate Move-Out Week’s typical garbage pile-up back to 2017 – motivated, she said, after she saw facilities crews putting what seemed to be a pile of perfectly good left- behind full-length mirrors from rooms in a dumpster one year. Klionsky said her ingrained ethos of “do not waste” from her Jewish upbringing kicked in, and she decided to get involved.
In previous years, the former Saint Michael’s Sustainability Director Heather Ellis-Lynch, along with the Campus Ministry volunteer arm MOVE, had collected items at the International Commons, set among the 100 and 200 series Townhouses — but students and their families were understandably less inclined to walk all the way to that relatively removed site on a busy move-out day with so much else going on.
That’s why Klionsky and the committee decided last year that an answer might be placing more sites to collect items, closer to the busiest move-out activity. ReSOURCE, a recycling organization in Burlington, is an important partner in the effort. “ReSOURCE has been a leader in reducing waste and diverting goods from the landfills for 30 years and has a wide network of community partners that we feel great about supporting,” Klionsky said.
New this year, she said, is that Ditch the Dumpster now can take “soft items” from students moving out, including clothing, shoes, sheets, towels, open shampoo, laundry products and cosmetics, to name a few. “ReSOURCE will clean these items and redirect them to Vermont Refugee ReSettlement and will create toiletry bags with self-care products for local survivors of domestic violence,” she said. The organization also has four brick & mortar stores around Vermont, and have partnered with the College for years but not to this extent. “This year they are dedicating their trucking staff, volunteers, bringing these bins every day that are called ‘gaylords’ – basically gigantic thick industrial-strength material boxes to put things in – and we’re putting eight per tent, Klionsky said. Also, unopened non-perishable food items from move-out will go to longstanding MOVE food shelf partners. “And ReSOURCE welcomes working and broken electronics! We just learned about the broken items being welcome,” Klionsky said.
Additionally, the Saint Michael’s Bookstore this year has offered to store mini-fridges or microwaves as well as lamps and mirrors and electric fans in excellent condition and “to sell them as gently used items to incoming students in the fall,” she said. “This will be a win-win for incoming students and their families while making a Green choice for the environment.” Any funds raised will go into future environmental efforts.
Lara Scott, director of the MOVE volunteer service arm of Edmundite Campus Ministry, said during the seven years she has been with the College, Ditch the Dumpster has been present on campus for move-out in at least some form. “While I don’t have specifics prior to my time on campus, I have heard MOVE-connected folks talk about a program called SOFA that seems to have had some similarities to Ditch the Dumpster. When I got involved, spring of 2015, Ditch the Dumpster was an effort coordinated by Heather Lynch, the Sustainability Coordinator at the time.”
That year, Scott said, MOVE and the Sustainability Office/Committee began a partnership and worked together for four years “to divert items from the landfill, to encourage donation and reuse of items, and build awareness around waste. Those four years had student involvement in planning and implementation as well as successful student engagement with the event itself.
In the spring of 2019, Scott said, Ditch the Dumpster had found itself more directly housed in MOVE. “Without the capacity to take on the project independently, I decided to look to the Sustainability Team that developed out of the College’s then-new Center for the Environment. It made a lot of sense to me and offered more human resources than MOVE was able to give.”
And so the spring of 2019, the effort happened through the Sustainability Team with leadership by Klionsky and a coordinating/planning committee, of which Scott and MOVE were part. “I have remained part of the planning committee because there continued to be such a connection to MOVE’s mission,” Scott said. “Obviously, last year (spring 2020) the planning for Ditch the Dumpster was put on hold due to COVID-19, but we are back on track this year for a successful spring 2021 move-out.”
Heidi St. Peter ‘96, the former MOVE director and now assistant dean in Academic Affairs, remembers the predecessor of these recent efforts, called SOFA — Saving for Others Furniture Association – which started around 2006. ‘It was actually an extension of the Habitat group, who realized how much furniture was going to ‘waste’ that other agencies could use to give to people in need,” St. Peter said. “They worked so hard in those first years to find volunteers (often recruiting through the offer of free ice cream!) and then to find ways to transport stuff to agencies. That was hard. VRRP, COTS and ReSOURCE were early recipients – the ReStore wasn’t around quite yet.”
The transport piece of the initiative for taking good away from campus is now more evolved this year, leaders say. “We are working very closely with ReSOURCE Vermont and many community partner food shelves that are eager to work with us in this environmental effort to save tons of good from the landfills,” said Klionsky.” thanks largely to ReSOURCE
Klionsky said typically 18 tons of garbage is produced with each move-out. Another partner, Casella Waste, which the College contracts with to remove whatever is not recycled ultimately, has been keeping track and significantly less waste has been produced because of this and similar efforts, saving money for the College. She said other nearby colleges – University of Vermont and Champlain College, “have reached out to learn from our model and we hope to coordinate with them more directly in the future.”
Student groups helping this year are Green-Up – co-presidents Anna Beach, Alexis Comeau and Gina Atkinson are on the Ditch the Dumpster committee and all Student Government Association clubs are being asked to co-sponsor by offering three or more volunteers per club. More volunteers are coming through MOVE, Scott said.
Klionsky said key volunteers this year as in the past have been Karen Talentino, former vice president for academic affairs and now of the biology faculty, and Doug Facey, biology emeritus. “We need so many volunteers — and for faculty and staff, I would say that our most in-demand day is graduation since there won’t be students available. But we need them later that afternoon.” She noted that faculty and staff are entitled to take a day from regular work duties through the Human Resources Office for such volunteer service. “The Center for the Environment, Green-Up and Campus Ministry all generously contributed to help us get t-shirts for all volunteers – not just for students,” she said.